Saudi officials are preparing to pay the salaries of the Free Syria Army as a means of encouraging mass defections from the military and increasing pressure on the Assad regime, the Guardian has learned.
The move, which has been discussed between Riyadh and senior officials in the US and Arab world, is believed to be gaining momentum as a recent flush of weapons sent to rebel forces by Saudi Arabia and Qatar starts to make an impact on battlefields in Syria.
Some seem to forget that Syria (like its neighbors Lebanon and Iraq) are artificial states, lines drawn on a map by European diplomats when they dismantled the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Indeed the same is true of much of Africa, carved up at the 1884-85 Berlin Conference. Borders were decided on the basis of European interests, not local ethnic/political dynamics. In the Middle East, there are only three entities that have historically been states/empires: Egypt, Turkey, and Iran.
The potency of ethno-nationalism as a political driver has been on display since the moment the USSR dissolved in 1991 and suddenly fifteen ethnic-based new republics, from Armenia to Uzbekistan, emerged. Then there was the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the Balkans wars of the 1990s, which is relatively calm thanks to a NATO interventions in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1996 to 1999, now sustained by EU forces) and Kosovo (ongoing since 1998 and extended again just yesterday) . Even Czechoslovakia split in two.
The contemporary reality is that local political identity, defined by kinship, language, and culture has assumed a growing importance, in part as an embrace of political identity in response to the complex and sometimes overwhelming forces of globalization.
Note: As for the video, it’s the entire film “Lawrence of Arabia,” because it’s Friday, I love movies, and it’s fitting due to the insanity swirling around the Syrian drama. Enjoy.